Poor self-recognition of disordered eating among girls with bulimic-type eating disorders: cause for concern?
Bulimic-type eating disorders are common among young women and associated with high levels of distress and disability and low uptake of mental health care. We examined self-recognition of disordered eating and factors associated with this among female adolescents with bulimic-type eating disorders (n = 139) recruited from a large, population-based sample.
A vignette of a fictional character with bulimia nervosa was presented, followed by a series of questions addressing the nature and treatment of the problem described. One of these questions required participants to indicate whether they currently had a problem such as the one described. Self-report measures of eating disorder symptoms, general psychological distress and quality of life were also completed.
More than half of participants (58%) did not believe that they currently had a problem with their eating. In multivariable analysis, impairment in emotional well-being and self-induced vomiting were the only variables independently associated with self-recognition. Participants who recognized a problem with their eating were more likely to have sought treatment for an eating problem than those who did not.
Recognition of disordered eating among adolescents with bulimic-type eating disorders may be poor and this may be a factor in low uptake of mental health care. Health promotion efforts may need to address the misconception that only bulimic-type disorders involving self-induced vomiting are pathological.